Gambling isn’t unique to any one country. Anywhere you go, you can find someone placing bets.
In many ways, betting is part of human nature. The idea of winning something creates the kind of adrenaline rush that people are constantly searching after. Betting is fun, and fun finds a way.
However, many countries also have strict gambling laws. This means that gambling in some countries is almost entirely stripped away.
Others have laws that are more flexible. The United States, for example, has gambling laws that vary from state to state. On a federal level, some forms of gambling are legal, and others aren’t.
Some countries have no laws against gambling at all. These countries aren’t always rampant with gambling, though.
Which countries actually do gamble the most?
Well, it can be hard to say exactly. There are many metrics which you can use to decide, and some gambling goes without regulation. However, we can make some approximations.
Deciding Which Countries Gamble the Most
The biggest factor in deciding which countries gamble the most is spend. This measures how much money people are spending in a country when they are gambling.
Similar to spend, some surveys measure loss. This measures not how much money is being spent, but how much money is being lost in total. This can be a more accurate measure, as it accounts for money that is being gained and then immediately lost.
However, spend is typically the more accurate measure. Because loss doesn’t account for money being won, spend can often capture the infrequent bettors much better.
Things begin to get murky when deciding which demographic to measure the metric against. The choice often comes down to measuring the spend of individuals, the spend per capita, or the spend of the country as a whole.
The Difference in Demographics
Measuring the spend of individuals provides a picture of how much the average person is spending each year gambling.
However, this picture isn’t always accurate. Whenever you are taking the mean, you have to account for wild variation. You could easily run into a scenario where 10 people are spending $10,000 each year, 10 are spending $5,000, and 20 are spending $0. This would provide an average of $3,750 a year, which isn’t accurate to anyone.
On the other hand, measuring the spend of the entire country provides the most macrocosmic view. It shows exactly how much the country is spending, which will give a good idea of how much people in that country are spending in total.
However, this fails to account for tourist gambling. A country like the US sees a lot of people coming into Vegas casinos. This metric also provides an inaccurate picture of what most people are doing. More than measuring individual spend, extremely high rollers can skew this metric.
Measuring per capita is a nice middle ground. It takes the average of both numbers – the average spend per person and the spend of the country – and splits the difference. This might make it the most accurate metric.
However, this should still be weighed against the other metrics in determining which countries gamble the most. Luckily, all three metrics show fairly similar answers. We can’t say with 100% accuracy which countries gamble the most, but there are only 2 true contenders for that crown.
The Countries That Gamble the Most
One country prevails in all metrics, and that is Australia. As of 2016, Australia had the highest spend per capita and the highest loss per person. Australia also came in fifth in the countries that spent the most on gambling that year.
The United States is the only other country to take first place in a metric. With a country-wide loss of more than $116 billion in 2016, the United States nearly doubled the closest spend per country – which is China. The inverse of Australia, the United States was also the fifth country in spend per person and capita in 2016.
Only 3 other countries made both lists: Italy, Britain, and Singapore. Neither Italy nor Britain come close enough in any metric to be named the country that gambles the most. Singapore certainly has a case. Coming in second in spend per capita and per person, Singaporeans are certainly spending a lot on gambling.
However, Singapore is so far below the United States and Australia in spend per country that it likely doesn’t matter.
Thus, we have our 2 contenders: the United States and Australia. So which one takes the top spot?
Which of These Top Two Countries Gambles the Most?
To decide which country gambles the most, we have to dig deeper into the data available.
The United States, perhaps unsurprisingly, spends a majority of its gambling cash in casinos. This supports the theory that its numbers have been artificially inflated by tourist casinos like those in Las Vegas and Saratoga.
Trailing behind casinos by a fair margin, a lot of money in the United States is spent on state lotteries. This is perhaps the most accessible form of gambling in the United States and accounts for just under $100 lost per resident each year.
From the lottery number, we can derive that the average American is gambling about twice a week. Assuming the average cost of a lottery ticket is $1, the average person would be buying roughly two a week.
Australia sees most of its gambling money spent on game machines. In Australia, these are called “pokies,” and they are fairly popular with the general populace. The average person spends $450 on these machines each year, at least according to 2016 statistics.
Normally set at a price between a quarter and a dollar, the implication is that Australians are spending a lot of time betting.
While it’s hard to be 100% sure, it seems pretty clear that Australia is the country that gambles the most. It seems that gambling addiction has become an epidemic in the land down under recently, and many are calling for reform. However, it seems that Australia will be spending a lot of money on slot machines for the foreseeable future.